Principal of Private Ocean in Marin County wins North Bay Business Leadership Pride award

Steve Branton

Advisor and Principal

Private Ocean

100 Smith Ranch Road, Suite 300, San Rafael


Steve Branton, an adviser and principal of San Rafael-based wealth management firm Private Ocean, is a winner of North Bay Business Journal’s inaugural Pride Business Leadership Awards.

Number of company employees: 50

Professional background: Certified Financial Planner, Certified Life Coach, Accredited Domestic Partner Advisor

Education: Bachelors in Economics, Tulane University; Financial Planning Certificate Program, Southern Methodist University; Coaching Certification Program, Coaches Training Institute

Tell us your story in your words: I grew up in Dallas, Texas and attended college in New Orleans, LA. I spent years living in Spanish speaking countries during and right after college.

In my early career, I was a Spanish court interpreter and translator. I gradually became interested in planning for my retirement and realized as a self-employed contractor there was almost nothing structured for folks like me. That lead me to an interest in financial planning studies.

Once I completed the program and passed the national exam, I began as a financial planner for a small, one-adviser shop in San Francisco, before moving to a larger firm four years later, Mosaic Financial Partners. The individual work with clients is what truly grabs me. Mosaic was acquired by Private Ocean two years ago, and I recently was made partner at Private Ocean.

Personally, what have you learned about yourself within the past year -- with its economic and social challenges -- and how will it change the way you live going forward?

I have seen that we have the ability to adapt quickly to external changes and at the same time focus personally and professionally on what is most important to us. I also have come to appreciate the importance of using technology in new and exciting ways to reach and serve our clients.

Did it give you a new perspective about your career or the business you are in? What was the biggest shift in that perception?

Geographical limits no longer apply to our client work.

Of all the things you learned about yourself in the past year or so, which one surprises you the most and why?

I am surprised by how quickly we all have adapted to survival mode during this period without much complaint or resistance. And many of us are not merely surviving the pandemic but thriving the pandemic by using this as an opportunity to get clearer about what we want.

What stereotype or bias involving the Pride movement which you most like to knock down and why?

I’d like to knock down the bias in the world that hiring LGBTQ people isn’t good for every company. I want companies to know and believe that hiring LGBTQ people and having that diversity leads to a more thriving, competitive, and successful company!

What was the best decision you made in the past year in your professional life in the past year, and what was the worst?

Best decision was to become an owner of my company, which gave me a seat at the table and an ability to influence the direction of our company, including in LGBTQ representation.

One decision I made this year that I continue to question was beginning a distance learning masters program at the same time as a pandemic was beginning! I underestimated how much doing classes remotely and asynchronously is NOT the optimal way for me to learn!

What is the achievement are you most proud of when it comes to your professional life and why?

I have normalized the act of working with an LGBTQ client at my company; my colleagues don’t have any reservations about doing this.

We are as desirable as clients as any other client might be. Further, our needs and values are known and understood in the ways they might be different from other clients.

What are you most proud of regarding the achievements of your organization, your work and/or your community activities when it comes to the Pride movement?

I am most proud of how our professional organizations have further activism and legal change both in California and nationally which enabled us to have the right to marry and enjoy all of the benefits of marriage.

I am also proud of how our community continues to advocate against the ongoing discrimination our community faces in employment, in housing and that specifically targets the trans community.

Words that best describe you: Concerned, determined and hopeful.

As a successful professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?

Homophobia, bias. I faced them by coming out, representing the LGBTQ community to others, by being proud of who I am and advocating for our rights, and by seeking straight allies in my professional life.

Now tell us who influenced, mentored, or inspired you in the area of the Pride movement, and tell us why: Local LGBTQ leaders Deb Kinney, Linda Scaparotti, Alma Beck and Frederick Hertz who use activism to fight for legal change for our community’s rights.

Current reading: “Roma “ by Steven Saylor

Most want to meet: Steven Yeun

Stress relievers: Yoga, meditation, nature

Favorite activities outside work: Travel, hiking, cooking

Those who care about you, what would they say are your best qualities: Willingness to evolve and grow

Is there anything we may have missed that you would like to add?

This has been a difficult time for all but especially people that don’t have traditional family structures or communities and/or who are marginalized; it has been heartening to see LGBTQ people support and advocate for one another during this period whether it’s emotionally, financially, professionally, or otherwise.

Steve Branton

Advisor and Principal

Private Ocean

100 Smith Ranch Road, Suite 300, San Rafael


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